Transport secretary Grant Shapps has admitted that Britain’s lorry driver crisis means there could be food shortages at Christmas.
It comes after a series of retail figures warned that the country’s faltering supply chain could not support increased demand during the festive season.
Waitrose chief executive James Bailey claimed some families might miss out on a turkey, while Iceland boss Richard Walker said he was “sounding the alarm” over potential “big shortages”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Shapps set out plans to increase the number of HGV drivers by 50,000 within a year.
He appeared to ignore calls from experts to bring in a visa to plug short-term shortages in the run-up to Christmas.
Almost 50,000 drivers have left the road in the last two years thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.
However, Shapps denied that leaving the EU had caused Britain’s need for 90,000 hauliers, claiming that Poland’s shortfalls were more severe.
Mainland Europe has a drought of around 400,000 lorry drivers.
Shapps claimed labelled Covid-19 the “number one cause” of the crisis but said the “problems had been coming along for a very long time”.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the changes were “far too little and far too late”.
“We’ve all seen supermarket shelves empty and now it’s affecting the delivery of vital medical supplies,” he said.
“Industry’s been warning of this crisis for years but the secretary of state has been asleep at the wheel.”
Three months ago, transport minister Charlotte Vere reportedly accused the grocery sector of “crying wolf” over driver shortages.